That Which Does Not Matter
Raymond kneels to the ground, a pistol pushed to the back of his head. After snatching and fumbling through the contents of his wallet Tyler discovers an expired college card. It becomes apparent that Raymond had studied biology at college before dropping out “What did you want to be Raymond?” “A vetenarian a vetenarian!” he exclaims. Like most people his hopes and dreams fell beside the wayside, now here he was kneeling in the rear carpark of a run down convenience store with the threat of death looming imminently. Suddenly things take a turn for the peculiar. “I’m keeping your licence I know where you live” explains Tyler, stuffing the wallet into the back pocket of Raymonds jeans. “If you aren’t on your way to becoming a vet in 6 months, you will be dead. Now run along”
Raymonds path is a common one. We all have hopes and dreams. Nobody grows up with aspirations that involve working in a convenience store. Yet many of us end up working “jobs that we hate in order to buy shit we don’t need”. Why? What stopped Raymond K Hessel becoming a vet? Are we willing to be that in the next 6 months Raymond will move mountains to get to the job he needs in order to keep himself alive? So, what has changed? Are we willing to bet that going through college Raymond took the path of least resistance, allowed himself to be distracted and ultimately took the easy route? Where the choice had to be made between pleasure and progress Raymond chose pleasure. This pleasure however is of the short-term variety. Deep down Raymond knew this. Just like we all know this and yet continually our minds try to dissuade us from delaying short term pleasure for long term success. What makes you do this?
Well to answer this question we need to drill down to what the definition of you is. So, ask yourself what am I? Do you see yourself as a mind locked inside a bag of muscle, bone and skin? Are you a body or do you have a body? Think about it. There are no right answers and it is all a matter of perspective. Now let’s look at this mind that we identify as “I”. Are we the parts of our mind that deal with autonomous reactions? For example, do we goose bump our skin when it gets cold or do we get goose bumps? A slight difference in phrase but the conceptual difference is perception altering. If our autonomous brain is not something that we identify with when we use the word “I” then we are left with our conscious brain. The mental dialogue that we interact with every day. The part responsible for making choices. If this is the part that we identify as I. Why does it let us down? Our subconscious brain will beat our heart without fail, it will breathe, it digests, along with a whole myriad of other processes that if it fails to do means that we as an individual perish. Yet our conscious brain, the part that we believe we control, the part that we identify as “I” is seemingly more stubborn.
Let’s use diet as an example. Why is it that with a full stomach and an ample dose of self-body shaming we are willing to commit to the most arduous of diets. You start off with good intentions, the calorie restriction isn’t that bad you tell yourself. Then the cravings hit. Now we’re faced with a battle. There are aspects of our internal dialogue that are now at loggerheads with each other. The result you want is still the same but now the true price begins to reveal itself. Essentially it comes down to the fact that to achieve our desired end status, we must be able to forego short term pleasure in the pursuit of long-term reward. However, when you’re 4 days in to a sugar eradication diet and somebody offers you a donut, those short-term pleasures don’t seem so short and that end state doesn’t seem so worth it.
So, you convince yourself to give in, you take the bite and the rush hits you. It’s short lived but it’s enough to knock you off the wagon. You realise the consequences of failure aren’t that great. It’s not like you really advertised the fact you were dieting anyway. Now what if the consequences were greater? What if like Raymond K Hessel we were being reminded of our failures with the business end of a 9mm? What if the desired end result perhaps wasn’t just that perfect summer body but were in fact the culmination of a long string of poor life choices where we repeatedly took the easy option? Raymond has a second chance and I’m willing to bet that Raymond is going to work a little bit harder this time for obvious reasons. Now I’m not advocating that we recruit a friend to threaten us with death the moment they see you so much as look at a donut but I am imploring you to take a minute to think about the little decisions you make. If somebody had a gun to your head and threatened you with death if you didn’t get where you wanted to be in life what would you do differently?
Our biggest limiting factor is usually ourselves. The fear of failure keeps us in our cell and the constant choices we make in the name of convenience rather than progress sooth us like a safety blanket. There is a voice inside you that wishes for more, you keep it quiet by the reminder that everybody else is doing the same. To be like everybody else is an evolutionary desire. For those who didn’t fit in with the pack were often shunned from the community and left to fend for themselves. In today's world this desire is stifling. To follow the path of the many is the most efficient route to achieving nothing spectacular. So put yourself in Raymond's shoes and take a minute to think about what it is you’d do differently.